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End trafficking in Cambodia

The Cambodian town of Poipet, along the Thai-Cambodian border, is a well-known hub for buying and selling human beings. Now the Cambodian Red Cross Society is spearheading a unique initiative to combat the modern slave trade in Poipet and across south-east Asia. “Whatever the reasons are, we have to confront them. Moralizing will not take us far,” says Sun Kanha project coordinator in response to human trafficking at the Cambodian Red Cross. “The aim is to focus on areas of prevention, public awareness and provision of assistance to women and children in the north-west province of Banteay Meanchey and at the other end of Cambodia close to Viet Nam in the Svey Rieng province.” Most human trafficking in Cambodia occurs for the purpose of sexual exploitation. However, other people are tricked or lured into bonded labour due to gambling or bad loans. Reliable statistics are hard to come by, with various organizations estimating that, worldwide, between 500,000 and 4 million people are trafficked each year.

 



©MARTIN O’BRIEN-KELLY / INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION


Federation president meets UN head

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and International Federation President Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro shared common humanitarian concerns during their first-ever meeting in Madrid in June. The leaders exchanged views on Africa, climate change and migration. The impact of climate change is a “personal priority” for the UN secretary-general. The International Federation president said that the International Federation was strongly committed to helping communities around the world meet this new challenge and become more resilient through risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response. President Suárez del Toro explained how the International Federation’s Global Agenda, based on Red Cross Red Crescent core areas of activity, is aligned with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

 


©INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION


Vital aid in Chad

Conflict between rebel groups and the national army has forced many Chadians to abandon their harvests and run for their lives. Because very few units of the national army remain to protect the civilian population along the eastern border with Sudan, this has left the border communities highly vulnerable. Moreover, inter-communal conflicts have flared up in the last six months, adding further insecurity and displacement of people. In addition, the civilian population is harassed by cross-border incursions from Sudan into Chad.

Considering that malnutrition is becoming a threat for a large portion of the displaced people, the ICRC has launched an important relief operation in cooperation with the Red Cross of Chad, essentially food, seeds and tools as well as shelter reinforcements. “The pressure to complete these distributions is due to the fact that the rainy season will begin at the end of June and continue until October. Once the rains come, access to the people in need will be virtually impossible. So we’re trying to reach large numbers of displaced people, who have now been through multiple displacements and have lost their capacity to cope,” says Anahita Kar of the ICRC.

Currently about 130,000 Chadians are displaced, while the Sudanese refugees settled in Chad, as a result of the Darfur conflict since 2003, number approximately 235,000.

 



©MARTIN VON BERGEN / ICRC


Peru’s deadly earthquake

On 15 August, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck central Peru, killing more than 500 people and leaving thousands homeless. The quake also damaged roads, hampering rescue efforts. To support Peruvian Red Cross rescue and relief efforts, the International Federation immediately released 250,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund. In addition, the International Federation’s Pan-American Disaster Response Unit sent disaster management delegates and relief supplies including tents, plastic sheeting, blankets and jerrycans.



©REUTERS / MARIANA BAZO, COURTESY www.alertnet.org


Guantanamo

The ICRC has been visiting detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since January 2002. There are currently almost 390 detainees from roughly 30 countries. As of December 2006, the ICRC had facilitated the exchange of nearly 28,000 Red Cross messages between the detainees and their families.

The ICRC follows up on all cases of detainees transferred from Guantanamo Bay to third countries, particularly if they are subsequently rearrested. The ICRC aims to visit these detainees in their new place of detention to ensure that their treatment and the conditions of detention are in compliance with international legal requirements. Whenever needed, ICRC delegates are present when detainees are released and provide clothes and transportation to enable the freed detainees to return to their families.

On 5 April 2007, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger completed talks in Washington with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and senior US officials on detention-related matters. Mr Kellenberger noted the quality of the ICRC’s dialogue with US authorities but stressed that the detention of people captured or arrested in connection with the fight against terrorism must take place within an appropriate legal framework. In particular, he insisted on the need for more robust procedural safeguards, especially in Guantanamo Bay and in Bagram, Afghanistan. While the ICRC welcomes any development that leads to a clarification of the future of the detainees at Guantanamo, it does not believe that there is presently a legal framework that appropriately addresses either the detainees’ status or the future of their detention.

Regarding detainees in undisclosed detention, Mr Kellenberger said the ICRC is still looking for a number of individuals believed to have been captured worldwide.

 



©REUTERS / JOE SKIPPER, COURTESY www.alertnet.org


Severe floods hit millions

In mid-2007, tens of millions of people in Bangladesh, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sudan were affected by some of the heaviest rains in decades. In South Asia, an estimated 35 million people were affected, among them, 14 million in India. In Bihar, India’s worst affected area, as many as 70,000 homes are thought to have been destroyed. In the financial hub of Mumbai, thousands waded knee-deep in water, while in other areas, people were bitten by snakes, crushed under the rubble of their homes or drowned. India’s harvest is likely to be severely damaged by the floods. In China, a staggering 200 million people were hit by summer flooding, which left some 700 people dead and forced at least 5 million to evacuate. Worldwide, National Societies, supported by the International Federation, distributed basic relief goods, evacuated people and provided first aid.


 


©REUTERS / RAFIQUAR RAHMAN, COURTESY www.alertnet.org


Pacific partners help the Solomon Islands

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the small country of Solomon Islands in April, help came from all around the Pacific Ocean. An international team from Australia, Tonga, New Zealand and Vanuatu joined their Solomon Islands Red Cross colleagues to deal with people’s immediate needs for food, water and shelter, and to assess long-term needs. Tens of thousands of people in the sparsely populated western islands fled their coastal villages to take refuge in the hills. Fearing more disasters, they were reluctant to return to their houses, gardens and fishing grounds. International Federation logistics delegate Sione Taumoefalau, who is also the secretary general of the Tonga Red Cross Society, served in Aceh after the Indian Ocean tsunami and said he believed people needed time to rebuild their confidence. “We’re not only dealing with the physical side. We need to help people in other ways.” He was confident that people in the Solomon Islands would recover and be able to plan for future disasters. “In Asia Pacific, we have to prepare because we live in a disaster-prone zone.”


©ROSEMARIE NORTH / INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION


Early warning in Mozambique

When cyclone Fávio swept through Mozambique’s Inhambane province in February, the Mozambique Red Cross Society was ready.

Volunteer Anita Wanisella [above] said, “We warned the community and advised them to strengthen their houses, tie down their roofs and keep their children home from school. Houses were damaged, but no one lost their lives.”

The National Society’s disaster preparedness programme, which began in Inhambane in 2002 after devastating floods that killed 700 people, uses simple techniques to warn communities of approaching disasters. The Red Cross programme trains five volunteers per community and provides them with radios and whistles to help them disseminate cyclone alerts and respond to disasters. These disaster committees also provide help with first aid, beneficiary identification and needs assessments.

Radios are a critical part of the warning system, as Anita Wanisella explained. “People didn’t believe us at first that a cyclone was coming. They were asking us how we could speak with God to find out such news about the weather. So we followed the instructions given by the Red Cross and organized the community into small groups. We took the radio to each group and played the government broadcast so the people could hear it for themselves.” Local Red Cross branches helped to alert people, through megaphones and visits to schools.

After the cyclone, the International Federation sent in an emergency health unit, and water, relief, logistics and telecommunications specialists to assist the Mozambique Red Cross in providing emergency assistance to survivors of the cyclone.

However, it is Mozambicans themselves who hold the key to coping with disasters and who have the determination to reduce their own vulnerability.

“The Red Cross taught us what we can do for ourselves. We felt much safer this year. As members of the local committee, we are responsible for looking after our community. We were able to help them because we knew what was going to happen,” said Wanisella.

 


©INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION


Red Cross in mourning… in Lebanon

Two Lebanese Red Cross (LRC) volunteers were killed in bombing action on 11 June near the LRC first-aid post in Burj el-Arab close to Nahr el-Bared camp in northern Lebanon where the Lebanese army had been fighting Fatah Islam. Boulos Meemary, 25, was head of the first aid centre at Halba. He had joined the LRC as a volunteer in 2000. Haitham Sleiman, 26, worked at the Halba centre. He joined the LRC as a volunteer in 2003.

Fighting erupted in Nahr el-Bared camp at the end of May. Since then, power has been cut off and clean water has become scarce. “We are concerned about the plight of those trapped inside the camp,” said Jordi Raich Curco, ICRC head of delegation in Lebanon. In early June, and despite intense fighting, rescue teams from the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the LRC, in coordination with the ICRC, succeeded in evacuating 35 people from the camp. Food, drinking water, candles, hygiene kits and blankets were also distributed by the ICRC and its Movement partners who work in close cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other United Nations agencies.

Fierce fighting occurred also in Ain el-Hilweh, a refugee camp in southern Lebanon, forcing Palestinian families to seek refuge in the nearby city of Sidon and prompting further humanitarian efforts from the Movement.

 


©REUTERS / JERRY LAMPEN, COURTESY www.alertnet.org


and in Sri Lanka

Sinnarasa Shanmugalingam, 32, and Karthekesu Chandramohan, 26, worked for the Batticaloa branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society for many years. They had been in Colombo attending a training workshop organized by the Sri Lanka Red Cross. On 1 June, they were abducted from Fort railway station in Colombo by unknown men while waiting to return to Batticaloa. Their bodies were found on 2 June at the Dumbara Estate in Kiriella, Ratnapura district.

“We are shocked by these brutal murders and wish to convey our sincere condolences to their family members and colleagues,” said Sri Lanka Red Cross Director General Neville Nanayakkara. At the same time, the Movement called upon the Sri Lankan authorities to carry out an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the killings. It also reminded the parties to the conflict that murder is prohibited under international humanitarian law, and that they must respect the work of humanitarian agencies and refrain from any acts that might jeopardize humanitarian staff or activities.

ln previous months, fighting between the Sri Lanka security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has continued in northern and eastern parts of the country. The Movement’s work relating to the conflict as well as post-tsunami work will, however, carry on.

 


©JESSICA BARRY / ICRC


More suffering in Afghanistan

The Afghan people have endured tremendous and seemingly unending suffering through nearly three decades of war, with no end in sight, as the conflict is currently intensifying and spreading. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of ICRC’s permanent presence in Afghanistan, Pierre Krähenbühl, director of operations, paid tribute to all those Afghans involved in humanitarian action, particularly the surgeons and nurses who have run the hospitals for years on their own as well as the 11,000-strong team of volunteers of the Afghanistan Red Crescent and ICRC expatriate (62) and national staff (over 1,100). “What allows us today to be more effective than we were four or even two years ago, is our strengthened partnership with the Afghanistan Red Crescent,” he said.

The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is due to a proliferation in roadside bombs, suicide attacks, targeted killings, sustained and significant aerial bombing raids and military operations that have increased in frequency and spread to different parts of the country. The hostilities have caused increased displacements of people, mainly in the south around Kandahar, where fighting has been particularly intense and takes place on a regular basis. This escalation has led to a significant increase in the number of war wounded and there is a general, spreading sense of insecurity among the local population. “The primary concern of ordinary Afghans today in most parts of the country is how to stay away from conflict zones and avoid being caught up in the violence,” said Krähenbühl.

In the future the ICRC will continue to visit nearly 7,000 detainees in 34 places of detention and to assist displaced people. Vital orthopaedic work continues, with over 76,000 people being treated since 1988, of whom more than 32,000 were amputees. The ICRC is also continuing with its activities to improve water supplies in some of the poorest urban neighbourhoods in Afghanistan.

 


©LORENZO MERLO / ICRC


No more cheating on TB in Russia

Russian Red Cross Society nurse Elena Korolyeva says she has seen every method for patients to avoid taking their tuberculosis medicine. “One man used to wait until I turned away before spitting the pill out. He was tired of the side-effects. After much talking and care on my side, we became friends and he didn’t cheat any more. He thought he was taking the pills for me but really he was doing it for his own health.” There is another benefit, too. Patients who do not complete their medical treatment risk developing multi-drug-resistant bacteria which leads to longer and more expensive treatment and an increased risk of infecting other people. The Russian Red Cross programme, run in the town of Belgorod and the surrounding region, aims to reduce the number of people who do not complete treatment prescribed in state health institutions. Communication and psychosocial support are vital in helping patients to complete what can be a difficult treatment programme. The Russian Red Cross also offers food parcels. In just over four years, the rate of patients defaulting on treatment has fallen from 28 to 4 per cent in the region.

 

Helping in Gereida

Opened in 2004, Gereida camp houses more than 130,000 people who have fled attacks on villages in south Darfur, Sudan. As the only humanitarian organization with a large-scale operation in the Gereida camp, the ICRC is very busy meeting the basic needs of displaced people who receive monthly rations of sorghum, lentils, salt, sugar and soap as well as water. In order to improve sanitary conditions in the camp, more latrines have been constructed. A team of 50 volunteers from the Sudanese Red Crescent assists the camp’s residents to dispose of waste and animal carcasses at newly constructed dumping sites outside the town. Every week, at the therapeutic and supplementary feeding centre that it operates jointly with the British Red Cross and the Australian Red Cross, the ICRC treats over 700 malnourished children under 5. The children are treated for worms and receive, in addition to urgent medical care, vitamin supplements and a special food mix that provides the equivalent of about 1,500 calories a day. At the camp’s main clinic, the ICRC performs an average of 400 consultations a day for respiratory diseases, diarrhoea, bilharzia and other ailments.

Besides ensuring that the basic needs of the camp’s residents are being
met, the ICRC also assists people who have returned to their villages, mainly by helping to revive agricultural production and by ensuring the supply of water. “Today, nearly three years on since we came to Gereida and despite living better — thanks to my job — than most people in the camp, we want to go back to our village as soon as possible,” says Aisha who is currently working for the ICRC as a nutrition monitor.

 


©BORIS HEGER / ICRC


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